Well, the giant spending bill that will keep the government open until September has been assembled, and would it surprise you to learn that Republicans have crammed it full of “riders” to do things like allow wealthy donors to give more to campaigns, block the adoption of energy-efficient light bulbs, give farmers an exemption from clean water rules, prevent transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to US prisons, and allow huge banks to use their customers’ money in risky investment practices?
Who says Republicans and Democrats can’t work together to pass important legislation?
On Wednesday, after former IRS official Lois Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self incrimination, Issa quickly moved to adjourn the session, saying he could “see no point in going further.” But as Cummings began to ask a procedural question about the issue, the Chairman tried to cut his mic, leaving Cummings to shout from his seat.
“I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America! I am tired of this,” he said, adding that after spending at least $14 million, the Committee has uncovered “no evidence to support allegations of a political conspiracy against conservative groups.”
Issa tried to abort the meeting after Lerner invoked her 5th Amendment right, and Cummings attempted to ask a question, prompting Rep. Issa (R-National Enquirer) to pull an O’reilly: cutting Rep. Cummings’s mic, and since he can’t cut to commercial, literally running from the room.
Bonus - video:
Issa’s such a little toad. It’s nice to see people starting to openly turn on him. Methinks they need to manufacture a new scandal, this one’s wearing a bit threadbare.
Let’s go straight to the video tape.
That’s from This Week With George Stephanopoulos this past weekend (10/04/2013) - starting around the 3 minute mark.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Mr. Speaker, he says — and he said it publicly on many occasions, that you came to him back in July and offered to pass a clean government funding resolution, no Obamacare amendments, that was $70 billion below what the Senate wanted. They accepted it. And now, you’ve reneged on that offer.
BOEHNER: No, clearly there was a conversation about doing this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Several conversations.
BOEHNER: Several. But—
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you offered a clean resolution.
BOEHNER: But I and my members decided the threat of Obamacare and what was happening was so important that it was time for us to take a stand. And we took a stand.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you decide it or was it decided for you?
BOEHNER: I, working with my members, decided to do this in a unified way. George, I have 233 Republicans in the House. And you’ve never seen a more dedicated group of people who are thoroughly concerned about the future of our country. They believe that Obamacare, all these regulations coming out of the administration, are threatening the future for our kids and our grandkids. It is time for us to stand and fight.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Mr. Speaker, this is clearly not what you want. I want to go back to several points you’ve made about this over the last few — here you were right after the election with Diane Sawyer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: It’s pretty clear that the president was re-elected. Obamacare is the law of the land.
If we were to put Obamacare into the CR and send it over to the Senate, we were risking shutting down the government. That is not our goal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: So right there, you say that’s not your goal. You don’t want to put Obamacare on the CR. You did it.
BOEHNER: George, I have made it clear to my colleagues. I don’t want to shut the government down. We voted to keep the government open.
Clearly, the Speaker admits that he had the opportunity to pass a budget, but refused because he and the rest of the Republicans decided to make it about defunding/delaying/destroying Obamacare. They had more than 40 attempts at repealing it, and failed on every single one, so their strategy became to tie the defund/delay/destroy to the annual appropriations cycle.
And it’s time for all the media to quit playing that this is something that both sides made happen, or that the President and the Senate are responsible for this. The Speaker gave the game away and admits for all the world to see that the House GOP blew up a deal on a budget over Obamacare.
The villagers in the Washington press corps are so busy reporting the inside baseball arcana, palace intrigue aspects, and personalities of this impasse that they’ve lost focus on how government is constructed and how it’s supposed to work. They’ve allowed a narrow fringe of tea party extremists to frame their reporting.
In his weekly address, President Obama says the economy is making progress five years after the worst recession since the Great Depression, but to avoid another crisis, Congress must meet two deadlines in the coming weeks: pass a budget by the end of the month to keep the government open, and raise the debt ceiling so America can pay its bills. Congress should vote to do these now, so that we can keep creating new jobs and expanding opportunity for the middle class.
As House Republicans decide not to return early to deal with Syria while simultaneously whining about the President playing golf, just thought you might like to know that this year, our elected representatives in Congress have generously granted themselves 239 vacation days.
They need to be well-rested for that 67th attempt at repealing Obamacare.
But what remains most astonishing about our representatives on the Hill is not only the quantity of legislation, but the amount of time spent working. The Congressional calendar for this coming year consists of 126 days, leaving members of Congress 239 days to perhaps tour our great nation, toy with the idea of running for higher office, and maybe visit a natural disaster or two. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s calendar releases rather embarrassing scheduling without a single 5-day work week or weekend. If you are already feeling riled up about this, I would not suggest looking at the month of August.
So, how? How can hard-working Americans, residents of one of the most overworked countries in the world, commute five times a week to and from work while their money is squandered away in one of the two or three weekly meetings Congress manages in squeeze in?
Well, perhaps my take on activities is somewhat cynical (not that you should have expected any less). Apparently, these weeks off are called “District work periods,” also known as free travel at taxpayer expense.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the NRA and Wayne LaPierre in particular are lying about facts or statistics, and flip-flopping on what should otherwise be agreement to get universal background checks.
LaPierre’s a shill for the firearms industry, so anything that cuts to the bottom line would not pass muster. So that means lying and obfuscating information and in particular mischaracterizing a study that assesses the federal assault weapons ban and its impacts on gun markets and gun violence from 1994 to 2003 (and yes, that’s the link to the actual study for you to read through). His claims, along with those of law professor David Kopel, are at odds with the results of criminologist Christopher Koper, the lead investigator who carried out the study for the University of Pennsylvania.
The fact is that the study reached no such conclusion. The biggest problem with the study was that it was inconclusive in several areas. But even then, key parts refute LaPierre and Kopel:
If you listened to the testimony today of Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, or David Kopel, a law professor and researcher at the libertarian Cato Institute, the study’s findings were unequivocal.
‘Independent studies, including a study from the Clinton Justice Department, proved that ban had no impact on lowering crime,’ LaPierre said. A footnote in his prepared testimony indicated he was referring to the Koper study.
Cato’s Kopel dwelled on the study at length, spending several minutes discussing its history and findings. ‘We do not have to speculate about whether ‘assault weapon’ bans do any good. A Department of Justice study commissioned by the Clinton administration found that they do not,’ he explained. ‘The study found the [Sen. Dianne] Feinstein ban to be a complete failure.’
So is that what the study said? No, according to the author of the study himself. I emailed Koper, now at George Mason University, after the hearing to note that I had a fairly different reading of his paper from that of LaPierre and Koper, and asked if he could sort it out.
‘I agree with your reading of our 2004 study,’ Koper replied. You can read the full study for yourself here and see that while it was not a ringing endorsement of the assault weapons ban, as many gun control advocates had hoped, it hardly ‘proved’ the law to be a failure, as LaPierre claims. To the contrary, it found some encouraging signs, like an average 40 percent drop in the number of assault weapons used in crimes (some cities saw a drop of over 70 percent) and some benefit from the ban on high-capacity magazines.
But mostly, the study was inconclusive. Not enough time had passed for the ban’s effect to be fully felt and there were too many loopholes to get a good read on its effect. For instance, the number of high-capacity magazines in the country actually increased during time of the ban because it was still legal to import magazines made in other countries before the law went into effect. Meanwhile, numerous other variables contributed to the drop in crime during that decade, including better policing and the end of the crack epidemic.
In his testimony, Cato’s Kopel zeroed in on this passage from the study: ‘We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.’
By the same token, the study didn’t rule out the ban as a contributor to the drop in crime. Just because something can’t be proven does not mean that the opposite is automatically true.
Inconclusive is not the same as a failure. It means that there’s need for follow up and additional study, as well as addressing issues that have occurred since the AWB sunset.
There are so few studies on firearms precisely because the NRA has done a tremendous disservice to the American public and public health in general by cutting off funding for the very kinds of studies that could delve in to the subject of firearms safety, health harms from firearms, mental health and firearms, and any number of related issues.
The Republican Party owns this mess and more specifically the House of Representatives Republicans, up to and including Speaker John Boehner. They have had weeks to get a Hurricane Sandy aid package passed, but they sat on it. They’ve had a version to work with for more than three weeks.
The House finally acted today on one portion of the overall $60b request for aid from states affected by Hurricane Sandy. They finally acted to approve the $9.7b portion that re-funds the National Flood Insurance Program.
The people affected by this program are people who actually paid flood insurance premiums into this program for insurance. Republicans ignore that basic fact when they vote to oppose this funding. They have a fiduciary duty to act promptly. They failed miserably on that account, and it was only the righteous indignation of Republicans in New York and New Jersey, along with Governor Chris Christie to get even this meager piece of the reconstruction package to the floor for a vote.
The final vote was 354-67. All 67 opposed were Republicans. Many were from states that are regularly hit with natural disasters. Here’s the list…
Here’s President Obama’s interview with dangerous criminal David Gregory, on today’s Meet the Press.
This time we can’t blame the craziness entirely on Republicans, although they’re the most enthusiastic promoters of this insanity: Congress Hearing on Vaccines Is a Farce of Dangerous Antivax Nonsense.
Also on the anti-science side in this ludicrous hearing: Dennis “UFOs are real” Kucinich (D-Ohio).
Virtually every claim made by antivaxxers is wrong. And this is a critically important issue; vaccines have literally saved hundreds of millions of lives. They save infants from potentially fatal but preventable diseases like pertussis and the flu.
So why did Congress hold hearings this week promoting crackpot antivax views?
I’m not exaggerating. The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing trying to look into the cause and prevention of autism. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) launched into a several-minute diatribe (beginning at 12:58 in the video above) that starts off in an Orwellian statement: He claims he’s not antivax. Then he launches into a five-minute speech that promotes long-debunked and clearly incorrect antivax claims, targeting mercury for the most part. Burton has long been an advocate for quackery; for at least a decade he has used Congressional situations like this to promote antiscience.
In the latest hearing, Burton sounds like a crackpot conspiracy theorist, to be honest, saying he knows—better than thousands of scientists who have spent their careers investigating these topics—that thimerosal causes neurological disorders (including autism). He goes on for some time about mercury (as does Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) starting at 21:44 in the video), making it clear he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. For example, very few vaccines still use mercury, and the ones that do use it in tiny amounts and in a form that does not accumulate in the body.
Talking about the danger of mercury in vaccines is like talking about the danger of having hydrogen—an explosive element!—in water. It’s nonsense.